Here are the nominees for the best reason or best reasons to write a book:
1 A Kind Gesture.
Anne Lamott revealed in her humorous writing guide Bird by Bird that some of her books have started out as gifts. “Twice now I have written books that began as presents to people I loved.”
2 An Act of Personal Discovery.
Eileen Pollack (Creative Nonfiction, Paradise New York) recommends that everyone have a question in mind as they are writing. Part of the writing challenge may be to discover that question during the first draft. As we write, we learn what our mind is thinking, and that can be exciting. “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear,” said Joan Didion in 1976, in “Why I Write,” originally published in the New York Times Book Review, 30 years before she wrote of her grief in The Year of Magical Thinking. Some people call this process “Peeling back the layers of the onion.” Anne Lamott said in Bird by Bird, “We write to expose the unexposed. If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must. Otherwise, you’ll just be rearranging furniture in rooms you’ve already been in.”
Your passion might be a cause, such as Al Gore writing An Inconvenient Truth about global warming. Or your passion might be your business, like Tony Hsieh’s lively and fun-to-read description of the early days of online shoe-seller Zappos in Delivering Happiness. Or you might just have a story that you feel you need to tell. “Writers end up writing about their obsessions. Things that haunt them; things they can’t forget; stories they carry in their bodies waiting to be released.” ― Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones)
4 Because It’s Fun!
For you, exploring your passion, exploring yourself, or giving your gift of words to others may seem like a fun, joyful experience. For example, do you care about cars? Obsessed with dancing the tango? Or, how about Teddy Bears? Think about the last time that you have ever snuggled a stuffed animal, felt its soft, fluffy furriness against your chest. Maybe you have to reach back to childhood for this memory, or your children’s childhood, or maybe it’s much more recent than that. Franny Frappier (The Handbook of Teddy Bear Management: A Nostalgic Guide for Adults on the Care and Feeding of Their Boy Teddy Bear) is one of those people for whom the memory of snuggling a teddy bear is much more recent than that. I think there are a lot of us (full disclosure—a Teddy Bear leans against my bed pillows every morning). Franny says, “I was writing for the fun of it. I used to get up early and write in a café. I would get up at 6 AM, write for about an hour or hour and a half, then go home and take care of things at home.”
Which is the best reason between 1, 2, 3, & 4?
“Know Your Audience” is a mantra in the publishing world, but for many authors, the best reason to write is: whatever keeps you writing! Your audience may be yourself, or a friend. Ann Patchett (Bel Canto, Commonwealth) has a reader in friend and fellow author Elizabeth McCracken (The Giant’s House). Patchett wrote in The Writer’s Chronicle, “Elizabeth is pretty much the only person who reads anything that I’m doing while I’m doing it. When we started off, I would show her what I did every day. I’d show her every chapter as I had written it.”
Which is your favorite reason?
[Debbie Merion is an award-winning writer who helps businesses, authors and students tell their story in a compelling, meaningful way. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org ]